When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Florida running back Chris Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 draft this past April, it seemed as if the selection had the finger prints of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley all over it. Many have pondered that Rainey would be the Steelers 2012 version of Kansas City Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster, who Haley drafted during his time as head coach of the Chiefs.
Len Pasquarelli of Scout.com reports that his sources insist that Haley didn\’t lobby for the selection of Rainey, who doesn\’t necessarily fit the mold of a Steelers running back, as he is not considered to be a between the tackles type ball carrier. Despite what Haley did or didn\’t lobby for, Pasquarelli thinks that the Steelers wanted a running back that can break the big play, which Rainey certainly proved he could do while at Florida with his great speed and escapability.
To put all of this in context though, head coach Mike Tomlin did say at the owners meetings in March that the team would be adding another running back either via the draft or free agency. They had both Isaiah Pead and LaMichael James in for pre draft visits leading up to the draft, but both ended up being selected in the second round.
The Steelers did do some pretty solid character research on Rainey leading up to the draft and they didn\’t have to go far to find out about him. Rainey lived with center Maurkice Pouncey and his family while in high school and Mrs. Pouncey told the Steelers that Rainey was a good kid and just used bad judgment when he sent a threatening text message to girlfriend while at Florida. Rainey ended having to perform 10 hours of community service and undergo anger-management classes as a result of the incident.
While Haley may or may not have been lobbying for Rainey, he did present good value in the fifth round for the Steelers. He will never be an every down back in the NFL, but he can be dangerous as a pass catcher out of the backfield and can also line up as a receiver in the slot or out wide in addition. Rainey can also return both punts and kick-offs in addition and he even blocked 6 punts while at Florida.
Even if Haley might not have been standing on top of the table in the Steelers war-room to demand the selection of Rainey on draft day as Pasquarelli suggest, I am willing to bet he still finds a way to get him a handful of touches in games, assuming Rainey makes the 53 man roster. The Steelers had such a solid first four rounds in the draft that taking a back like Rainey, who might not fit the prototypical type of running back the team normally goes after, was certainly worth the risk. I bet Haley would agree if asked.